Date of Award

Spring 6-6-2023

Document Type

Honors Project

University Scholars Director

Dr. Christine Chaney

First Advisor/Committee Member

Dr. Leland Saunders


supreme court, abortion, roe v. wade, dobbs v. jackson, politics


The Supreme Court is often viewed with awe and the justices treated with reverence. It is the highest court in the United States, tasked with interpreting the law. But is the Supreme Court the neutral arbiter of justice it purports to be? Most recently, the 2022 ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned the fifty-year precedent of Roe v. Wade, causing the Court to face increasing scrutiny and questions of its legitimacy. I conduct a philosophical analysis of the arguments made by the justices in the opinions on Roe v. Wade, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, and Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to understand the way abortion jurisprudence is argued. In the Court’s opinion on Casey, the plurality constructs an argument for the legitimacy of the Court. I take this argument and assess its logical validity, and then with the framework the argument presents, I examine if the Court can maintain its neutrality in the context of philosophical arguments. Then, using case law analysis from Melissa Murray about the impact of abortion and precedent, as well as Ronald Dworkin’s constitutional evaluation from Freedom’s Law, I discuss the role that legal principles play in abortion jurisprudence and apply political behavior research into motivated reasoning to better understand the Court’s political motivations. I find, on their own criteria, that the Court fails to maintain the neutrality they claim to have, meaning they are in fact a political body. I also find the Court’s political nature impacts its ability to decide on controversial topics and provide suggestions for what this means for the Court’s role in American government as we face increasing polarization.


A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the University Scholars Honors Program.

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